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What’s Up Doc?: Les Blank, Alex Gibney & Alex Winter Lead SXSW Charge (February 2015)

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What’s Up Doc?: Les Blank, Alex Gibney & Alex Winter Lead SXSW Charge (February 2015)

Now that the busy winter fest schedule of Sundance, Rotterdam and the Berlinale has concluded, we’ve now got our eyes on the likes of True/False and SXSW. While, True/False does not specialize in attention grabbing world premieres, it does provide a late winter haven for cream of the crop non-fiction fare from all the previously mentioned fests and a selection of overlooked genre blending films presented in a down home setting. This year will mark my first trip to the Columbia, Missouri based fest, where I hope to catch a little of everything, from their hush-hush secret screenings, to selections from their Neither/Nor series, this year featuring chimeric Polish cinema of decades past, to a spotlight of Adam Curtis’s incisive oeuvre. But truth be told, it is SXSW, with its slew of high profile world premieres being announced, such as Alex Gibney’s Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine, Alex Winter’s Deep Web (trailer below) and Ondi Timoner’s Brand: A Second Coming, that have taken over the list this month.

At the tippy top you’ll find a cinematic gem once thought lost and forgotten in A Poem Is A Naked Person, a film by the late, great chronicler of Americana, Les Blank. Shot during the years of 1972 and 1974, A Poem documents beloved singer-songwriter and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Leon Russell in and around his recording in his studio in Oklahoma while working on new material and performing live. With help from Blank’s frequent collaborator Maureen Gosling and his son Harrod Blank, the film has seemingly come back to life with Blank’s signature vérité encapsulation of life’s joys in music and art, in people and creative partnerships. The trailer (below) even boasts of guest appearances by Willie Nelson and George Jones. What more could we ask for from a filmmaker we thought we’d sadly heard the last of?

After having tracked Fredrik Gertten’s line drawing Bikes vs Cars since the success of its Kickstarter campaign back in November of 2013, it’s lovely to see that prior to screening at SXSW, the film will have its world premiere as the opener of Stockholm’s increasingly relevant Tempo Documentary Festival. It’s Gertten’s first feature since the Dole Food Company tried to smother him out of cinematic existence in Big Boys Gone Bananas!*. No less socially incisive, his latest looks to turn our attention toward the global issue of humanity’s detrimental reliance on the personal vehicle and its easiest answer: Bikes. As a daily bicyclist myself, I couldn’t be more excited for my favorite mode of moral transportation to be the focus of a feature doc with a proven track record.

There are a few films new to the list and yet unrelated to a looming festival premiere, the most exciting of which is Robert Weide and Don Argott’s long in the making Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time.  33 years ago, Weide embarked on a journey to document the life and times of beloved American author Kurt Vonnegut, but as filming commenced on and off throughout the years, the film became harder to complete as the two became close friends and the production needed ever more money. As evidenced by the lovingly rendered teaser (below) that was recently released to promote the currently running Kickstarter campaign to complete the film, he’s collected a wealth of material to piece together an elegant, personal film. As of today, the filmmakers are still a bit short of their goal of $250,000, so consider kicking in a few bucks if this piques your interest at all.

As mentioned previously, for those attached to any of the docs mentioned below — please feel free to share any updates on the status of your projects. I can be reached at jordan [at] ioncinema dot com. Newly expanded, here is our most anticipated Top 100 docs in the pipeline.

#
Film Title 
Filmmaker(s)
Producer(s) 
Status
Last Month’s Ranking
1
A Poem Is A Naked Person
Les Blank
Leon Russell, Denny Cordell
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
2
Crocodile Gennadiy
Steve Hoover
Danny Yourd
Post Production
⬆ #11
3
Bikes vs. Cars
Fredrik Gertten
Elin Kamlert, Margarete Jangård
Tempo Preem
⭑ New!
4
Unlocking The Cage
DA Pennebaker & Chris Hagedus
DA Pennebaker & Chris Hagedus
Post Production
⬆ #20
5
Hitchcock/Truffaut
Kent Jones
Cohen Media Group, Artline Films & Arte
In Production
⬆ #23
6
Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine
Alex Gibney
Alex Gibney, Viva Van Loock
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
7
I Am Belfast
Mark Cousins
John Archer, Chris Martin
Completed
⬆ #28
8
Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time
Robert Weide & Don Argott
Robert Weide, Sheena M. Joyce
In Production
⭑ New!
9
Ice & Sky
Luc Jacquet
Luc Jacquet
Post Production
⭑ New!
10
Untitled Malala Yousafzai Project
Davis Guggenheim
Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes
Post Production
⬆#38
11
Untitled Frank Sinatra Portrait
Alex Gibney
Nancy Sinatra, Jeff Pollack
 Pre-Production
⬆#40
12
Sarah
Tracy Droz Tragos
Tracy Droz Tragos
In Production
⬆#43
13
The Flickering Flame
Jim Loach
Rebecca O’Brien
In Production
⬆#44
14
Deep Web
Alex Winter
Marc Schiller, Glen Zipper, Alex Winter
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
15
Barge
Ben Powell
Ben Powell, Dave Schachter
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
16
Dear John Grierson: A Postscript to The Story of Film
Mark Cousins
Mark Cousins
Post Production
⬆ #47
17
Diamond, Silver and Gold
Jason Kahn
Jared I. Goldman, Amanda Branson Gill
In Production
 ⬆ #42
18
Untitled Jackson Heights, Queens Project
Frederick Wiseman
TBD
Pre Production
⬇#17
19
Sailing A Sinking Sea
Olivia Wyatt
Olivia Wyatt
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
20
Brand: A Second Coming
Ondi Timoner
Ondi Timoner
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
21
Untitled Grateful Dead Doc
Amir Bar-Lev
Martin Scorsese, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Andrew Heller, Sanford Heller, and Rick Yorn
Unknown
⬆ #50
22
The Settlers
Shimon Dotan
TBD
in Production
⭑ New!
23
Mixed Feelings
Guy Davidi
TBD
In Production
⭑ New!
24
Bounce: How the Ball Taught the World to Play
Jerome Thelia
Jerome Thelia, Anne Carkeet, David McLain, Bill Mershon, Phil Mershon
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
25
Be Natural: The untold story of Alice Guy-Blaché
Pamela Green & Jarik van Sluijs
Robert Redford – exec producer
Post Production
⭑ New!
26
Beatles Touring Doc
Ron Howard
Nigel Sinclair
Completed
⭑ New!
27
 Strong Island
Yance Ford
Esther Robinson
Post Production
⭑ New!
28
For Grace
Kevin Pang & Mark Helenowski
Executive Producer: Mark Helenowski, Kevin Pang
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
29
She’s The Best Thing In It
Ron Nyswaner
Ron Nyswaner, Jeffrey Schwarz, Neda Armian
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
30
Knock Knock, It’s Tig Notaro
Michael LaHaie & Christopher Wilcha
Kevin Vargas, Mark Dudzinski
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
31
Les Blank: A Quiet Revelation
Gina Leibrecht
Harrod Blank
Unknown
⭑ New!
32
Home Movie
Chantal Akerman
TBD
Unknown
⭑ New!
33
Poached
Timothy Wheeler
Steve Brown
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
34
Rose
Ben Rivers
TBD
Unknown
⭑ New!
35
Ring Girls
Amy Berg
TBD
Post Production
⭑ New!
36
The Sandwich Nazi
Lewis Bennett
Calum MacLeod, Lewis Bennett, Benjamin Taft
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
37
Peace Officer
Scott Christopherson & Brad Barber
Scott Christopherson, Brad Barber, Dave Lawrence
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
38
Rats NYC
Morgan Spurlock
Morgan Spurlock & Jeremy Chilnick – exec producers
Pre Production
⭑ New!
39
Volcano
Werner Herzog
TBD
Pre Production
⭑ New!
40
Command and Control
Robert Kenner
Robert Kenner, Eric Schlosser, Melissa Robledo
In Production
⭑ New!
41
Janis: Little Blue Girl
Amy Berg
TBD
In Production
⭑ New!
42
Breaking A Monster
Luke Meyer
Tom Davis, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill, Molly Smith
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
43
Untitled Missouri Doc
Rebecca Cammisa
TBD
Announced
⭑ New!
44
David Millar Project
Finlay Pretsell
Iain Smith, Sonja Henrici
In Production
⭑ New!
45
GTFO: Get the F&#% Out
Shannon Sun-Higginson
Shannon Sun-Higginson
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
46
Driving with Selvi
Elisa Paloschi
TBD
In Production
⭑ New!
47
Mythical Creatures
David Charles
Lanette Philips
In Production
⭑ New!
48
Gun Runners
Anjali Nayar
TBD
In Production
⭑ New!
49
Speed Sisters
Amber Fares
Jessica Devaney
In Production
⭑ New!
50
Madina’s Dream
Andrew Berends
TBD
Unknown
⭑ New!

Legend:

New to Chart
No Change
Position Increase
Position Drop

#
Film Title 
Filmmaker(s)
Producer(s) 
Status
Last Month’s Ranking
51
A Better Man
Attiya Khan & Lawrence Jackman
Sarah Polley – exec producer, Christine Kleckner
In Production
⬇#49
52
Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four
Deborah Esquenazi
TBD
Unknown
⭑ New!
53
Pieces of a Man
 Orlando Bagwell
TBD
Unknown
⭑ New!
54
Twinsters
Samantha Futerman & Ryan Miyamoto
Samantha Futerman, Ryan Miyamoto, Steve Brown, Yamato Cibulka, Jeff Consiglio, Kanoa Goo, James J. Yi
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
55
Frame by Frame
Alexandria Bombach, Mo Scarpelli
Alexandria Bombach, Mo Scarpelli
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
56
Catching the Sun
Shalini Kantayya
TBD
Unknown
⭑ New!
57
Night School
Andrew Cohn
Steve Bannatyne, Jason Orans, Zachary Shields, Louis Venezia
In Production
⭑ New!
58
Mudflow
Cynthia Wade and Sasha Friedlander
Cynthia Wade, Sasha Friedlander, Tracie Holder (Co-Producer)
In Production
⭑ New!
59
Logs of War
Anjali Nayar and Hawa Essuman
Steven Markovitz, Anjali Nayar, Jonathan Stack (Executive Producer), Edward Zwick (Executive Producer)
In Production
⭑ New!
60
Deep Time
 Noah Hutton
 Noah Hutton, Jesse Miller, Sara’o Bery
SXSW Preem
⭑ New!
61
The Prison in Twelve Landscapes
Brett Story
TBD
Unknown
⭑ New!
62
On the Outside: The Year After Prison
Matthew O’Neill
John Kennedy, Cynthia Farrar, Jon Alpert, Shannon Sonenstein Sonrouille, Reina Higashitani, Matthew O’Neill
Unknown
⭑ New!
63
Cocaine Prison
Violeta Ayala
TBD
In Production
⭑ New!
64
The Murder and the Journalists
Francisco Bello
Rebecca Richman Cohen
In Development
⭑ New!
65
Phantom Cowboys
Annie P. Waldman & Daniel Carbone
TBD
Post Production
⭑ New!
66
Containment
Robb Moss & Peter Galison
TBD
Post Production
⭑ New!
67
Block Seven
Jordie Montevecchi
TBD
In Production
 ⭑ New!
68
Being George Clooney
Paul Mariano
Christine O’Malley, Rivkah Beth Medow
In Production
⭑ New!
69
The Lovers and the Despot
Robert Cannan & Ross Adam
TBD
In Devlopment
⭑ New!
70
Trapped
Dawn Porter
TBD
In Production
⭑ New!
71
Untitled Pandemic Doc
Janet Tobias & Cesar Charlone
Janet Tobias, Michael Ehrenzweig, Peter W. Klein and Rogger Lopez
In Production
⭑ New!
72
Road to Home
Calvin Skaggs
Cal Skaggs, Ashley Panzera (Associate Producer)
In Production
⭑ New!
73
Count Me In
Ines Sommer
TBD
In Production
⭑ New!
74
Survivors
Banker White & Arthur Pratt
TBD
Unknown
⭑ New!
75
The Babushkas of Chernobyl
Holly Morris and Anne Bogart
TBD
In Production
⭑ New!
76
Dream Away
Marouan Omara
TBD
Unknown
⭑ New!
77
 The Return
Kelly Duane de la Vega & Katie Galloway
TBD
In Production
⭑ New!
78
Death by Design
Sue Williams
Sue Williams, Hilary Steinman, Julie Goldman, Diana Barrett (Executive Producer), Victoria Wang (Executive Producer), Dan Cogan (Executive Producer)
Unknown
⭑ New!
79
Yula’s Dream
Hanna Polak
TBD
In Production
⭑ New!
80
Ask the Sexpert
Vaishali Sinha
TBD
In Production
⭑ New!
81
Indian Point
Ivy Meeropol
Ivy Meeropol, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements (Co-Producer), Carolyn Hepburn (Co-Producer)
In Production
⭑ New!
82
The Holly
Julian Rubinstein
TBD
Unknown
⭑ New!
83
Uncertain
Anna Sandilands & Ewan McNicol
TBD
Post Production
⭑ New!
34
The Brainwashing of My Dad
Jen Senko
TBD
Post Production
⭑ New!
35
Return to Timbuktu
Michael Meredith
Alex Gibney
Unknown
⭑ New!
36
The Arrivals
Heidi Ewing
TBD
Unknown
⭑ New!
87
A Flickering Truth
Pietra Brettkelly
TBD
Post Production
⭑ New!
88
Down By Law
George Amponsah
TBD
Post Production
⭑ New!
89
Out of Mind
Kristi Jacobson
TBD
Unknown
⭑ New!
90
The Blind Cinema Club
Jennifer Redfearn
TBD
Unknown
⭑ New!
91
This is America
Amby Berg
TBD
Filming
⭑ New!
92
O.P.D.
Pete Nicks
TBD
Unknown
⭑ New!
93
Like Ants for Sugar
Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya
TBD
Post Production
⭑ New!
94
All Eyes and Ears
Vanessa Hope
Vanessa Hope, Ted Hope, Carlton Evans, Geralyn White Dreyfous
Unknown
⭑ New!
95
League of Exotique Dancers
Rama Rau
Ed Barreveld
Unknown
⭑ New!
96
So Help You God
Ashley York
TBD
Post Production
⭑ New!
97
White Elephants
Kristof Bilsen
TBD
Post Production
⭑ New!
98
The Negotiators
Victor Buhler
TBD
In Production
⭑ New!
99
The Bill
Ramona Diaz
TBD
Unknown
⭑ New!
100
The Girl Who Knew Too Much
Amy Benson & Scott Squire
TBD
Unknown
⭑ New!

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